Durban – Hank McGregor and Bridgitte Hartley claimed wins as the popular four-leg Bay Union Open Ocean Surfski Challenge got under way in great weather conditions at the Durban Undersea Club on Sunday morning.
With weather predicted to be moving in from the South West later in the day the out-and-back race course took paddlers down the coast before returning to DUC as the Westerly arrived.
McGregor duelled with on-form Brandon van der Walt at the front of the long course race, before shaking off the Maritzburg College schoolmaster on the return leg.
"It was a great dice with Brandon van der Walt and I managed to get the edge on him with about two kilometres to go and opened up a hundred metre lead," said the multiple marathon world champion.
"It is always hard coming back from overseas and then refocussing and getting back into training," said McGregor, who recently won the Mauritius Open Ocean Classic surfski title.
"I was using this race as a good benchmark, and I am still feeling strong and happy to take the win," the Fenn/Euro Steel star added.
Van der Walt duly finished second, ahead of seasoned surfski racer Gene Prato. Quinton Rutherford and Mark Perrow teamed up to take the double ski honours.
Olympic sprint medallist Bridgitte Hartley won the women's title, showing her growing confidence racing surfskis in ocean runs.
"I went out a little bit too hard but I didn't know what to expect on the way back, and if the other girls were better than me in the runs I would have had them catching me," said Hartley.
"That's why I went out hard in the beginning and tried to hang on to Hamish Mackenzie's wave," she explained.
"I turned about fifth or sixth, and was feeling a bit of pressure, but on the way back I got into a good rhythm and caught some really good runs and held on for the win," she said.
Jenna Ward finished second in the women's race with Kyeta Purchase claiming the last place on the podium.
Stand Up Paddleboarders are ardent supporters of the series and Matt Swemmer took best advantage of the mild wind conditions to win the overall SUP honours, with Jacqueline LeCourt de Billot winning the women's SUP prize.
The Bay Union-backed series is a hotbed of development paddling talent and always sees emerging paddling prodigies vying for glory in the short and long course races, with Thubelihle Banda winning the prize for the best performance from a paddler from the Point Watersports Club development project.
The second outing of the Sunday morning series next week is the Citadel Race offering the same options of a six kilometre short course and a twelve kilometre long course race.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
BAY UNION RACE
1.Hank McGregor 53:54
2.Brandon van der Walt 54:20
3.Gene Prato 55:46
4.Brendan Delport 57:40
5.Hamish Mackenzie 58:53
1.Bridgitte Hartley 58:56
2.Jenna Ward 1:00:12
3.Kyeta Purchase 1:00:46
4.Lyn Bennet 1:07:28
5.Wilma Deyzel 1:15:29
1.Quinton Rutherford/Mark Perrow 55:33
2.Gustav Kriese/Neil Evans 57:14
3.Gary Behn/Murray Behn 58:28
4.Gary Waud/James Tutton 58:31
5.Skye Prato/Don Gobey 59:12
1.Matt Swemmer 55:35
2.Jon Ivins 1:05:27
3.Jacquiline Le Court de Billot 1:11:05
1.Steve Cohen/A.Smith 42:23
2.Murray SMith/Dylan Smith 42:35
3.Debbie Gillt/Tracey van Greunen 43:53
4.Ian Walker 43:58
5.Sanele Nxumalo 44:33.